PALMER -- Roger Phillips was waiting for his team to put it all together, but the Soldotna coach finally saw that happen in the sixth inning Thursday.
Soldotna used five runs in the bottom of the sixth to score a 9-6, come-from-behind win over the Houston Hawks during the quarterfinal round of the Southcentral Conference Championships at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer on Thursday.
The Stars face Colony, which defeated Homer 15-5, in a 7 p.m. semifinal today. The winner goes to state and Saturday's championship game.
"We were finally putting the bat on the ball a little bit and being aggressive on the base paths," Phillips said of the Stars, who knocked the Hawks out of the single-elimination tourney. "And (we were) smarter."
Phillips said early SoHi chances were erased by mental mistakes.
"We had several opportunities early. We made running errors -- not running out on a ground ball, getting picked off at first," Phillips said. "(In the sixth we were) just being smart on the base paths, just letting the bat push you around instead of overthinking it."
SoHi sent nine hitters to the plate during its five-run sixth. Tyler Fritz sparked the Stars with an early single in the inning, and after Josiah Covey was intentionally walked, Mason Kanakis reached on an infield single.
With the bases loaded, Mitchel Daugherty dropped a ball right in front of the Houston center fielder to score Fritz and Covey and tie the score at 6.
Shane Miller drove in the go-ahead run with a bloop single.
"Like we always say, if you put the bat on the ball, you put the onus on the defense to come up and make the play," Phillips said.
Houston coach Bill Kramer said those two plays were central to the Stars' rally.
"Credit to them, they hit the ball, they did what they needed to do to win the game," Kramer said. "It didn't fall our way. They took advantage of the things they needed to."
Tyler Marcuson followed with a two-run double in the inning to push SoHi's lead to 9-6.
Junior captain Scott Kramer pitched five solid innings to help Houston have a chance at the win.
"(Kramer) had absolutely great command," Phillips said of the Houston starter, who threw 115 pitches. "My hat's off to that kid. He's not only a hard worker, but he controlled the game well for them."
Bill Kramer said Scott threw 25 more pitches than he'd tossed in any game this season. The Houston coaching staff was ready to replace the starter with two SoHi runners on in the fifth, but Scott Kramer continued to compete.
"To his credit, he worked his way out of the inning," Bill Kramer said.
Kramer also helped his own cause at the plate, finishing 3-for-4. The junior doubled twice and drove in four runs.
He led off the third inning with a double to left field and later scored on a Russ Ruta sacrifice fly to tie the score at 2.
In the fourth, with the Hawks trailing 4-2, Kramer stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and drilled a pitch into the left field corner.
Kramer's three RBIs gave Houston the 5-4 lead.
In the sixth, Zach Lovelace doubled to left-center field and scored from second on a Kramer single to give Houston the 6-4 lead.
The Hawks took an early 1-0 lead in the first. Freshman Jaden Sears reached on an error and later scored on senior Pat Fitzgerald's single.
SoHi tied the score in the bottom of the inning when Fritz doubled and scored on a passed ball. The Stars took a 2-1 lead in the second when Miller reached on an error and scored.
Palmer 5, Kenai 3
Senior Tim Rockey pitched seven solid innings and Palmer scored five runs in the third to post a 5-3 quarterfinal win over the Kenai Central during the first day of the Southcentral Conference Championships on Thursday at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer.
"Give him credit," Kenai coach John Kennedy said of Rockey. "He did a great job of getting our hitters off balance."
Rockey walked four and allowed just one hit en route to the win. He was also 1-for-3 with a run scored and RBI.
AJ Hull pitched six innings in the loss, allowing five hits.
"Unfortunately, with our seeding, we played a pretty good team," Kennedy said.
Kenai Central took a 2-0 lead in the first. Ethan Oliver walked and scored and Hull reached on a fielder's choice and scored to give the Kards the 2-0 advantage.
Kenai Central took a 3-0 lead in the third, with another Hull run.
All of Palmer's offense came in the third inning. Micah Villanueva led off with a single. Brennan Harrison was hit by a pitch and Luke Huen drew a walk to load the bases.
With the bases jammed, Kevin Montgomery walked to score Villanueva. Rockey notched an RBI single to cut the lead to 3-2, and David Media gave the Moose their first lead with a two-run single. Augustus Topp added to the advantage with another RBI.
Palmer continues play in the semifinals at 4 p.m. today against Kodiak, which topped Wasilla 8-5.
Kennedy said he thought the strike zone changed in the third inning, which hurt Hull. He also gave credit to Palmer for some clutch hits.
Despite the loss, Kennedy was happy with the way his team played.
"We only had two errors, and they never came back to hurt us," Kennedy said.
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